With the inauguration of 30MW Chameliya hydropower project, our national electric power production capacity has now reached 956 MW. This will also be an important project in the overall economic activity of Province 7. Slated to complete in 2011, the project took another six more years to finally start producing power. The project cost shot from 8.34 billion to 15 billion by the time it was completed. The project is a reminder and a lesson for us to learn to manage our big infrastructure projects in a better way. The addition of 30MW power to our national grid also means that we won’t have to worry much about power cut during winter months. We are already seeing a surplus of energy at night as the country’s energy usage peaks only during daytime. This also has to change. Why not provide incentive to use power at night to the industries at discounted rate? We will be generating 17,000 MW of hydro energy in the next decade. We cannot solely rely on power export to India and to other countries. Let us incentivize the use of clean energy from hydropower plants across our economic activities.
Almost 40 percent of our household still does not have access to electricity. This should be the foremost priority of the next government. This will have multifold impact on our overall living standard and also in the way people use energy. Many asthma and other deaths are attributed to in-house smoke from firewood, especially in the hilly region. Once we go electric, the need for firewood will also decrease drastically. Our transportation medium has to go electric. Nepali Congress leader Gagan Thapa had tabled the proposal in the parliament in October last year to prohibit sale of fossil fuel vehicles in Nepal by 2040. We hope this will be taken seriously by the next government. The government has announced 10 percent excise duty on electric vehicles, starting this fiscal year. Moreover, Nepal Electricity Authority, state-owned agency, is building electric charging stations for vehicles around Kathmandu. These are all welcome steps, but not enough.
Nepal’s trade deficit with India hit a record high in the last fiscal year. Nepal suffered trade deficit of Rs 491 billion in the first 10 months of 2016/17, higher than the total trade deficit that the country has suffered in any fiscal year. Large share of this deficit is ascribed to the surge of imports of petroleum products—worth 118 billion rupees last fiscal year.
Increased production of hydropower will not only help us to reduce this deficit but also enable us to leapfrog our economy to clean power economy. This is not only in the best of our health and environment, but also enables us to use the power produced by our mega hydro projects. For too long, our thinking has been to export power. We need a fundamental shift in our mindset to find best ways to use energy in our productive sector as well.